Over the next month, Defending Big D will be counting down the most important "impact" players for the upcoming season for the Dallas Stars. Starting from the player we believe will have the smallest influence on this season to the player with the most, we'll countdown from #23 all the way to the top as we get ready for what we hope will be a very promising season.
Sheldon Souray is admittedly one of the two more widely known names coming to the Stars during free agency this year (the other being Michael Ryder, who just won the Cup with the Boston Bruins.) After spending 2009-2010 with a significant amount of games on the IR and being sent to the AHL for the entirety of the 2010-2011 season, Souray comes to the Stars this season with a lot to prove to his detractors and to the NHL in general. The Stars, meanwhile, are looking for a booming shot from the blueline that has been noticeably lacking in recent seasons and are looking to build a "tough to play against" roster. Put the two together and you have the makings of a very interesting partnership for this season.
Souray is a big body, and he likes to make sure you know it. He is not afraid to play physical, gritty hockey nor to thrown down if the action is warranted. He also has a wicked shot from the blueline. In his last full season in the NHL in 2008-2009, Souray was second amongst defensemen in the NHL in shots on goal (268 shots in 81 games) balancing out his gritty play with scoring threats. Souray in his prime is the mold of player the Stars were looking for during free agency this year.
The question for most people is whether the Stars are going to see anything close to that level of play from Souray. With Souray being so motivated to prove that he still "has it", it wouldn't be surprising to see a comeback year for Souray. That chip on Souray's shoulders is the key here -- a motivated player is exactly what the Stars want as he will be determined to contribute wherever possible, whenever possible. Souray is signed for one season, so if the Stars-Souray experiment does not play out on the optimistic side, the team has given some veteran experience to their relatively young defense while not overcommitting time or money.
The biggest impact Souray is going to have on this team is going to be using his shot from the blueline to help add scoring depth to the team. Regardless of which defensive pairing Souray ends up on, he will provide a scoring threat on the ice that should help take some of the pressure off the forwards. That added scoring depth is what the team needs in order to overcome the Brad Richards scoring that left when he went to the New York Rangers on July 1. Most Stars fans will be quite pleased if they see anything north of 20 points from Souray, and his scoring from the blueline will be a big part of the ability of the team to roll four consistent scoring lines this season.